Did you know that Walnut Hills was once the home of a renowned seminary headed up by Dr. Lyman Beecher, father of author Harriet Beecher Stowe? The Lane Theological Seminary, named after its first large donor Ebenezer Lane, was founded in 1828 by Presbyterians. It sat on land bounded by Gilbert, Yale, Ashland and Chapel Streets (map) in Walnut Hills. Today much of this land is occupied by Thomson-MacConnell Cadillac, but historical marker erected on Gilbert Ave. still tell the story of Lane Seminary.
Dr. Lyman Beecher had a national reputation and Lane Seminary soon attracted top students from around the country. These students very quickly began to form anti-slavery societies and open classes up to Black students. Lively debates at the school ensued, and many of these activist students actually left the seminary when Seminary trustees attempted to quell what they felt were out-of-control student actions. Many of these “Lane Rebels” went on to play important roles in the anti-slavery movement across the country.
Nevertheless, Lane Seminary continued to have a consistently anti-slavery reputation, and an early Black settlement formed around the school. Lane did not discriminate against new Black residents as it leased out portions of its land for new homes. The Seminary stayed in operation for about 100 years, finally closing in 1931 and transferring students to McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago. In addition to its work in establishing Walnut Hills as an integrated community, Lane Seminary and Dr. Beecher also brought Walnut Hills a national reputation as a center of learning.
Sources: Walnut Hills City Neighborhood, by Cincinnati Historical Society, 1983; Howe’s Historical Collections of Ohio, by Ohio Historical Society, 1907